Theatre: Lyttelton Theatre (National Theatre) – nearest tube is Waterloo (Bakerloo, Jubilee, Northern, Waterloo & City and National Rail)
Dates: Runs until 24th March 2018.
Tickets: SOLD OUT however tickets are still available via the Friday Rush, Day Tickets and possible returns.
Cheap tickets? Yes! National Theatre Entry Pass tickets for under 26’s are £7.50 each. As well as this, every Friday at 1pm a certain amount of £20 tickets are available to book online, even for sold out shows, for the following week’s performances. Day Tickets are offered at the box office on the day of the performance on a first come first served basis from £15-£18 per ticket. (These offers run across all National Theatre shows and are not specific to Network)
Running time: 2 hours. No interval.
Programme cost: £5 

NetworkStage door: There is one stage door serving all three theatres at the National, so it can sometimes get hectic. There is no barrier in place, however security make sure everyone is in an orderly line to make the meeting/signing process easier, just follow the orders you’re given!

Seats: The first few rows of the Lyttelton have been packed in so don’t seem to have as much leg room as the seats further back. I’m 5″8 and they were a bit tight for me, so anyone taller than that might struggle. I’ve also sat in the slip seats, and whilst the view is restricted (for Network I missed about 30% of the action, so I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re only planning on seeing a show once) you get a lot of leg room and private space.

Overall thoughts: This is another one of those shows where I booked it for the actors (hello Bryan Cranston and Michelle Dockery) rather than knowing anything about the plot (I know, JUDGE ME, I’m that person). But boy, oh boy, I was not disappointed. Network, based off of the Paddy Chayefsky film of the same name, tells the story of Howard Beale, a news anchor who gets fired because of poor ratings, and his spiral into insanity. The staging is ambitious, it’s set up like a studio and before the play even begins we see Cranston sat in the make up chair before walking to his news desk and thus starting the play. Throughout the play Cranston is seen acting into the cameras, rather than towards the audience, as if he was shooting a real life news programme. This is both interesting but also a slight hinderance to the enjoyability of the play. 

It’s no secret that Bryan Cranston can act, but watching his performance of Howard Beale felt special. He has a unique way of making you feel like you’re the only person in the room, and the intensity that he portrays night after night is second to none. Network is one giant rollercoaster of media manipulation, heavily focusing on what corruption of the highest level can do to you and Cranston ‘Jekyll and Hydes’ between calm and crazy with such ease it’s eerie. His performance by far outshines anyone else on the stage and at points Network feels like it should be a one man show.

Michelle Dockery plays the uptight and soulless TV executive Diana, who only really cares about one thing, decent television ratings. She uses Beale’s demise into insanity to her advantage and quickly tries to get rid of him when things go wrong. Her role is less significant than it is in the movie, and there’s something missing that doesn’t make Diana quite as intense as Faye Dunaway’s portrayal. The subplot of Diana’s affair with Max Schumacher (Douglas Henshall) is used more as a comedy tool than anything else and you could remove it from the script without losing anything vital. As a whole, it doesn’t really work.

The use of audience participation is interesting and makes that subtle crossover into immersive theatre, most notably with the addition of Foodwork, but that’s for another blog! In addition to Foodwork, during a chat show segment of the play the audience are asked to repeat the line “I’m mad as hell and I just can’t take it anymore”, Cranston sits amongst the audience for a small portion of the show, and videos sent in from fans are used in the performance. Elements of immersive theatre seem to be slowly creeping into mainstream West End shows, but does this add anything extra to the shows? Let us know what you think in the comments!

– Becca & Gemma –

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